By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Singer Kevin Fowler and beer are so synonymous, you'd think he invented it and not Al Gore. The Amarillo native believes "The Lord Loves a Drinking Man," in or out of "Beer Season," because "Long Neckin' (Makes for Short Memories)," which is why "Beer Money" tops his priority list of "Beer, Bait & Ammo." If there was any doubt, Fowler's latest honky-tonk country single sets the record straight: "Hell Yeah I Like Beer."
Of course, not everyone appreciates a little Texas forthrightness. Several Boston Red Sox pitchers were engulfed in a media kerfuffle in the wake of the team's collapse in the stretch. Reports of pitchers drinking before a game's conclusion were punctuated with shots of several pitchers, including Fowler buddy Josh Beckett, singing along to the song in the single's video, which he filmed during spring training.
"I told him, 'Don't blame that shit on me,'" Fowler says with a laugh, fresh from a weekend hunting trip with the BoSox hurler. "Pretty much everyone in the video got caught up in this whole drinking scandal, so my video got caught up in it a little bit too. It was a bit funny, but just spell my name right, that's all I ask."
Fowler's lighthearted humor and easygoing manner are not only two of his greatest gifts, but have fueled him through the slow grind. He's never been a Nashville sweetheart, though his cowboy sound, blue-collar sensibilities and fun-loving attitude dovetail nicely with country radio's eternal Saturday night spirit. Instead, Fowler's worked it from the grassroots up, falling in with the Texas/Red Dirt scene and burning up the highways with a particularly rocking style of country. It's something he picked up during his younger years as hair-farming guitar slinger during the early '90s in hard-rock acts like Dangerous Toys and Thunderfoot.
"You want people to come out and spend their entertainment dollar, you better give them a show. That's why our stage show is modeled more after a rock show," Fowler says. "Rather than just stand up there and play the songs, have some energy and entertain them. That's always been my motto."
Despite his hard-rock bona fides, when Fowler first started writing his own songs, it was the Merle, Hank and Willie of his youth that came out. He's been plugging away for nearly 14 years, enduring a string of label bad luck that would have left many checking the Yellow Pages under exorcism. Each of his last three labels closed shortly after releasing one of his albums. Last year, when he signed with Disney subsidiary Lyric Street Records, Fowler thought he'd put that misfortune in the past, but eight weeks into the release of his single "Pound Sign (#?*!)" they shuttered their doors.
Fowler feels he's broken the streak since signing this year to Colt Ford's label, Average Joe's Entertainment, and releasing his sixth full-length, Chippin' Away, his first new album in four years. All that time out of the marketplace just meant more time to write.
"It's one of the cool by-products of the whole fallout of the record label before that one [falling apart]. There was three years between the last record and this record coming out," he says. "We had over 40 songs going into the record and really got to pare it down to the cream of the crop. This record was the record I did for Lyric Street, so it was on the shelf for almost a year while I waited to get out of that deal. I found the only thing harder than getting a record deal is getting out of one."
The new single, "That Girl," has been mounting the charts, and Fowler's making a renewed push to reach out beyond his regional fanbase. It's unlikely to show any immediate fruit, but Fowler's nothing if not hard-working and patient.
"I never had that overnight boom thing where it just blew up for me and life was beautiful from then on," he says. "It's always been hard for me and Chippin' Away really is just my career. I keep on chugging, chipping away every day staying at it, and staying in business long enough to get lucky."